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Staycation Itinerary: Exploring the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway

A trip along the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway can include various portions of the scenic route, as in it’s entirety, the byway covers 287 miles along the Minnesota River, which was once one of the largest rivers in existence.

For the purposes of staying within the local area while the gas prices are high, this particular itinerary will cover the span of the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway that runs between Granite Falls and Redwood Falls.

This portion of the Scenic Byway features not only prairie views, but historic sites, outcroppings of ancient rock, and parks that offer the opportunity to spend time in nature.

Minnesota Scenic Valley Byway Itinerary

What to pack: A camera, a thermos with coffee, bug spray, sunscreen, sun hats, a picnic of fresh fruits and vegetables, a tablecloth, plenty of water for hydrating.

Morning: Using Granite Falls as a starting point, make your way to the first historic stop on the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway. The Wood Lake Monument,  located on County Road 18, one-half mile west of Highway 67. Take time to explore the monument and the history that surrounds it. The monument, erected in 1919, was constructed as a memorial to government soldiers who died during the final battle of the U. S.-Dakota War of 1862. Besides the monument itself, there is a mowed path that wraps around Wood Lake Creek – the location of the battle that took place on September 23, 1862.

Late morning: Make your way farther down the Scenic Byway to the Joseph R. Brown Memorial Wayside historic site. The site is located on Renville County Road 81, south of Sacred Heart. The remains of the home of Joseph R. Brown provide a space to further explore local history. The granite rock ruins of the home that was destroyed in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 belonged to Brown and his wife, Susan Freniere, who was a member of the Sisseton tribe and the child of a fellow trader.

Pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the historic sites along the Byway.

Lunch: Pack a picnic and utilize the picnic tables at the Joseph R. Brown Memorial Wayside rest to have a picnic. Don’t forget a tablecloth for some added ambiance.

Afternoon: Make your way down the byway to Vicksburg Park in Renville County. The  park is located at 73715 County Road 7 . Take a walk to the overlook with a view of Rice Creek Village, search for Five Lined Skink, and Juniper Hairstreak Butterflies, and enjoy some time by the water either fishing or canoeing. The park is also filled with gneiss outcrops, and ancient granite, featuring a large sandbar and oxbow ponds.

Late Afternoon: While making your way back through the Scenic Byway, make a detour towards Belview for a stop at Grandview Valley Winery. Stay for a dinner in the dining room with a fireplace, or grab a bottle of one of their signature wines to bring home. Visitors can also take the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio overlooking the grape vines. Stay long enough to take in the prairie sunset on the drive home.

Drive home with the sunset for the best views of the prairie sunset.

For even more of a look at this itinerary, follow the QR code at the end of this article.







Reporter & photography by Jessica Stolen-Jacobson